Author: Nalini Singh

Ocean Light by Nalini Singh

Ocean Light by Nalini SinghOcean Light by Nalini Singh
Published by Berkley on 12th June 2018
Pages: 416
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Security specialist Bowen Knight has come back from the dead. But there's a ticking time bomb in his head: a chip implanted to block telepathic interference that could fail at any moment--taking his brain along with it. With no time to waste, he should be back on land helping the Human Alliance. Instead, he's at the bottom of the ocean, consumed with an enigmatic changeling...

Kaia Luna may have traded in science for being a chef, but she won't hide the facts of Bo's condition from him or herself. She's suffered too much loss in her life to fall prey to the dangerous charm of a human who is a dead man walking. And she carries a devastating secret Bo could never imagine...

But when Kaia is taken by those who mean her deadly harm, all bets are off. Bo will do anything to get her back--even if it means striking a devil's bargain and giving up his mind to the enemy...

I’ve always had a soft spot for Bowen Knight, even loved his cause and his unwavering, determined fight for humanity in the Human Alliance (guess which one I belong to?)—the least of the three races it seems, in Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling world. My heart sank when Bo went down hard in ‘Silver Silence’ and just as I thought all hope was lost, ‘Ocean Light’ became my own (and Bo’s) salvation. This was the book I’ve always wanted ever since Bowen burst onto the scene, from the moment I learned that he had an immovable but lethal chip in his head about to detonate any time.

That Singh chooses to introduce Blacksea using Bowen’s story is an obvious shift away from the Bear changelings in ‘Silver Silence’, a mysterious group hinted at in the closing books of Singh’s “season 1” of her Psy-Changeling novels that focused solely on the cats and the wolves. Here, Singh opens yet again new pathways and original insights into her massive world-building that continues now deep down in the sea, so compelling in ways that it’s hard to turn away from the myriad of sea creatures and their personalities that populate this book. Half the book however, after the intriguing setup, comprises Singh’s languid, thorough exploration of the world Bo has found himself in, not least the slow unfurling and the slow romance between him and Kaia, before the pace picks up frantically again towards the end.

Written into Kaia Luna’s and Bowen Knight’s attraction is a conflict that’s drawn up against these lines: the bad blood between the humans the Blacksea changelings rather than just a personal feud that Kaia sets up against Bowen for the losses in she feels keenly in her life. Enemies-to-lovers in this context, might just seem a little too dismissive after all, too small a view to take in the huge world that Singh has written, though this is still a trope nonetheless, in romantic fiction which I like a lot.

Yet Kaia, a scientist-turned-cook (with maternal instincts and a soft, easily hurt heart that’s prone more to pulling away) in the Ryujin BlackSea Station, is the last person I’d expect Singh to pair with the hard security chief, who is as ruthless and emotionless as the Psy themselves without the telekinetic power. Coupled with the (somewhat unbelievable) bit of instalove written into a strong attraction—cue bodies hardening, arousal flaring—that strikes the both of them at first glance is perhaps also an attempt to humanise the hard-nosed image of Bowen Knight who is more a man of flesh and emotions more similar to the other alpha changelings than we think. I would have loved a stronger, harder, a more sword-wielding-type mate for Bo—the type that would have stood for his fight in the Human Alliance by his side with a weapon— but clearly this is my personal preference speaking for such heroines to materialise every time.

‘Ocean Light’ is satisfying on many levels, but I particularly loved the introduction to the Blacksea changelings and Bowen’s Knights. The threads of this incredibly complex arc that Singh has written are far from tied up, nonetheless. There are still too many unrevealed secrets here—things that Singh doesn’t choose to reveal—that baby steps seem to be the only way in which this juggernaut of a story can move on, which is both as rewarding and as frustrating at times.


Cherish Hard by Nalini Singh

Cherish Hard by Nalini SinghCherish Hard by Nalini Singh
Series: Hard Play #1
Published by TKA Distribution on November 14th 2017
Pages: 297
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Sailor Bishop has only one goal for his future – to create a successful landscaping business. No distractions allowed. Then he comes face-to-face and lips-to-lips with a woman who blushes like an innocent… and kisses like pure sin.

Ísa Rain craves a man who will cherish her, aches to create a loving family of her own. Trading steamy kisses with a hot gardener in a parking lot? Not the way to true love. Then a deal with the devil (aka her CEO-mother) makes Ísa a corporate VP for the summer. Her main task? Working closely with a certain hot gardener.

And Sailor Bishop has wickedness on his mind.

As Ísa starts to fall for a man who makes her want to throttle and pounce on him at the same time, she knows she has to choose – play it safe and steady, or risk all her dreams and hope Sailor doesn’t destroy her heart.

‘Cherish Hard’ is my first venture into Nalini Singh contemporary romance and I hadn’t known at all what to expect, being familiar as I am only with her psy-changeling series. Having also not read ‘Rock Hard’, of which ‘Cherish Hard’ is an off-shoot or spin-off or at least a prequel to Gabriel Bishop’s story, Sailor’s and Ísa’s story is nevertheless a standalone, which takes place a few years prior Gabe’s book.

What I hadn’t expected was a quirky style that’s unlike Singh’s driving, more epic world-building style found in the psy-changeling series, set in a cosy corner of Auckland as a ambitious landscaper pursues the woman he has in mind to the very end, with a whole lot of charm and sweetness. That younger man/older woman dynamic (or at least the stigma associated with it) is thankfully not drawn out too much; what Singh chooses to expand upon is that their ages put them at different points in their life—Sailor is busy building on his ambitions and his business and presumably has no time for anything else, while Ísa is looking for stability and a family.

But while this is the main conflict that the whole narrative seems to be moving towards, the inevitability of a large blow-up and a temporary break-up as found in too many romances is actually staved off by ‘adulting’ behaviour: Sailor and Ísa confide their fears in each other, talk it out and stick together on the road ahead of them.

‘Cherish Hard’ has made me want to check out Singh’s other contemporary romances but this spin-off that she is doing of the Bishop brothers is one that I know I want more of already.


Silver Silence by Nalini Singh

Silver Silence by Nalini SinghSilver Silence by Nalini Singh
Series: Psy-Changeling Trinity #1
Published by Berkley Books on June 13th 2017
Pages: 423
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Precision. Family. These are the principles that drive Silver Mercant. At a time when the fledgling Trinity Accord seeks to unite a divided world, with Silver playing a crucial role as director of a worldwide emergency response network, wildness and chaos are the last things she needs in her life. But that's exactly what Valentin Nikolaev, alpha of the StoneWater bears, brings with him. Valentin has never met a more fascinating woman. Though Silver is ruled by Silence--her mind clear of all emotion--Valentin senses a whisper of fire around her. That's what keeps him climbing apartment buildings to be near her. But when a shadow assassin almost succeeds in poisoning Silver, the stakes become deadly serious...and Silver finds herself in the heart of a powerful bear clan. Her would-be assassin has no idea what their poison has unleashed...

It’s impossible to go into any of the Psy-Changeling books and not get blown away by the intricately detailed, futuristic world that Nalini Singh has shaped over the past 15 books. ‘Silver Silence’ is Silver Mercant’s story, the stoic, emotionless psy who finally meets her match in the Valentin Nikolaev the bear alpha and their epic romance—from wary suspicion to brief happiness to heartbreak—feels like a great love story unfolding amidst a shifting world that’s hurtling towards an unknown future.

The book isn’t a standalone, but admittedly, it can function as one especially if you don’t exactly wish to go through the first 15 books of the series to get to this point and half the title itself is the name of a mysterious psy who has appeared as Kaleb Krychek’s tough, capable but emotionless aide in the past few books. After ‘Allegiance of Honor’ closed the previous arc, Silver’s story heralds in a new age, so to speak, ushering in Psy-Changeling’s “season 2” and focusing on a period where all three races look towards unity as they seek to heal their deeply-fractured world.

In fact, ‘Silver Silence’ takes up the complicated threads from the end of the last book and adds even more layers to this shifting world that inexorably hurtles towards an unknown future even as new and recurring characters find their mates. It also feel like a reboot of the series that is making me feel the excitement I haven’t felt in forever when a good book comes along.

There are light-hearted moments as there are heart-wrenching ones and while I felt overwhelmed by the details at times as ‘Silver Silence’ kicks the action all back up into high gear, it’s hard not to look back at every turn and wonder just how far we’ve come since the first book. I laughed so hard at Singh’s introduction of the Bear changelings—their irrational behaviour that still somehow endears people to them above all—and loved every moment detailing how different they seemed to the rest of the changelings and pretty much fell for this bear clan as I did the wolves. There’s also renewed focus on the Human Alliance (though there’s already some gutting tragedy here!) which I hope will play a bigger role in the upcoming books and I simply can’t wait to see how far Singh goes to integrate these races in this new age.

Singh pits opposing characters here as she normally does in her stories—an emotional, primal changeling with a psy conditioned for absolute control—but adds an intriguing history behind the distinguished Mercant family line and the Stonewater clan that makes Silver’s and Valentin’s story so much more than just an opposite-attracts kind of story. The type of pairing isn’t new (a psy with an alpha changeling) but Singh’s storytelling never gets dull here, because Silver/Valentin’s relationship is tied so deeply to the instability during the Age of Trinity yet isn’t compromised by the unfolding of events. It’s also deftly handled such that it’s hard not to root for both Silver and Valentin, who are well-matched and unwavering when it comes to loyalty and desire, as they show the same kind of determination to be with each other no matter the circumstance. Their conflict and their different stances on sex (the virgin vs the experienced male) aren’t simply written for the sake of adhering to a particular romance-novel format, but rather the history of these races explains why Silver/Valentin behave the way they do and does actually lend a measure of credibility for readers who like challenging these well-established romance tropes.

After having gotten the rather fierce affirmation of Silver/Valentin’s HEA, to finish the first ‘episode’ of the new season is akin to waking up rudely to reality and the garish morning light, making you want to crawl back into the reading cave for the sequel…which isn’t yet on the horizon.


Allegiance of Honor by Nalini Singh

Allegiance of Honor by Nalini SinghAllegiance of Honor by Nalini Singh
Series: Psy-Changeling, #15
Published by Berkley on June 14th 2016
Pages: 478
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The Psy-Changeling world has undergone a staggering transformation and now stands at a crossroads. The Trinity Accord promises a new era of cooperation between disparate races and groups. It is a beacon of hope held together by many hands: Old enemies. New allies. Wary loners.
But a century of distrust and suspicion can’t be so easily forgotten and threatens to shatter Trinity from within at any moment. As rival members vie for dominance, chaos and evil gather in the shadows and a kidnapped woman’s cry for help washes up in San Francisco, while the Consortium turns its murderous gaze toward a child who is the embodiment of change, of love, of piercing hope: A child who is both Psy…and changeling.
To find the lost, protect the vulnerable—and save Trinity—no one can stand alone. This is a time of loyalty across divisions, of bonds woven into the heart and the soul, of heroes known and unknown standing back to back and holding the line. But is an allegiance of honor even possible with traitors lurking in their midst?

Knowing that Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changelings series is so beloved by many readers – me included – makes this review doubly hard to write. To say that ‘Allegiance of Honour’ is a disappointment is in itself so incredibly difficult to do, because I’d hope this ensemble cast of a book would have been the crowning glory of the Psy-changeling series.

I remember the wonder that overcame me when I tore through ‘Slave to Sensation’, ‘Caressed by Ice’, ‘Kiss of Snow’ and several others which have long become my favourites, loving how this rich universe expanded and grew as Singh revealed an expansive vision of a near-future world torn and divided along lines that went beyond ethnicity or religion.

But maybe it’s time to throw in the towel.

Because what I’d expected of the close of this ‘season’ fell far short of my hopes. Instead, ‘Allegiance of Honor’s’ narrative was too scattered, too bloated and too unfocused as every single character flitted in and out of the huge mythos that Singh has built, as they each gave an update of what has been happening to them in the interim months or years. Not having read all of the books in the series, there were chunks of this story I didn’t understand nor could find myself interested in, which, needless to say, makes ‘Allegiance of Honor’ a book that isn’t a standalone, nor a story that is for everyone. While I loved every scene (as few as there were) with Hawke and Sienna and the wolves, everything else soon became fair game – pun unintended – when it came to filling the space of this huge story that didn’t really go anywhere but merely solidified the key players in the story, the key players in the next season of the series as well as what has already happened…ad nauseum.

Many of these characters’ happy lives after their books have been already filled in the space of my own imagination and even if it’s lovely to see the multiple HEAs come to fruition, perhaps this rather effusive and over-extended epilogue had gone on long enough.


Shards of Hope by Nalini Singh

Shards of Hope by Nalini SinghShards of Hope by Nalini Singh
Series: Psy-Changeling #14
Published by Berkley Hardcover on June 2nd 2015
Pages: 483
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Awakening wounded in a darkened cell, their psychic abilities blocked, Aden and Zaira know they must escape. But when the lethal soldiers break free from their mysterious prison, they find themselves in a harsh, inhospitable landscape far from civilization. Their only hope for survival is to make it to the hidden home of a predatory changeling pack that doesn’t welcome outsiders.
And they must survive. A shadowy enemy has put a target on the back of the Arrow squad, an enemy that cannot be permitted to succeed in its deadly campaign. Aden will cross any line to keep his people safe for this new future, where even an assassin might have hope of a life beyond blood and death and pain. Zaira has no such hope. She knows she’s too damaged to return from the abyss. Her driving goal is to protect Aden, protect the only person who has ever come back for her no matter what.
This time, even Aden’s passionate determination may not be enough—because the emotionless chill of Silence existed for a reason. For the violent, and the insane, and the irreparably broken…like Zaira.

The Psy-Changeling universe is expanding and this already-dense world’s expansion is never clearer than in ‘Shards of Hope’, the longest and possibly the most comprehensive sum-up of the leopard-wolf-arrow story arc in the post-Silence era. A dizzying array of characters from past books walk in and out of sections and chapters, but couched within this shift (and end of an era, perhaps?) is the story of Zaira and Aden, 2 other prominent Arrow soldiers who have, like shadows, passed through the pages of Nalini Singh’s earlier books.

Tortured and captured, Aden and Zaira find themselves beyond psychic help and in unfamiliar territory. Help comes unexpectedly from an isolated leopard changeling pack and a growing conspiracy intended to rattle the newfound (and uneasy) peace between the humans, changelings and the psys brings both of them–as well as the reader–into deeper contact with the water changelings and other characters who have until now, been on the periphery.

Zaira struck me as a feral changeling more than a stoic Arrow, but that only becomes apparent after the abolition of Silence which had, until then, kept her monstrous rage and her childhood memories at bay and tightly locked. She finds her own steadying pillar of strength in the unshakable Aden, and discovers the urgent need to leash her anger before she destroys him as well. Aden’s big heart for the Arrows and his infinite patience with Zaira however, steer them in a direction that only shows how extraordinary a leader he is.

Zaira and Aden find new allies and new enemies, navigating a post-silence world as uncertainly as many before them have, and it’s within this new dawn that their relationship is allowed to grow. Their coming together isn’t an explosive encounter; instead it’s a gentle transition borne of the years of knowledge that they were always somehow, already together.

The transitory phase and the obvious shift away from the leopard-wolf alliance have become Singh’s new focus, providing the foundation on which the next story-arc, or perhaps better thought of as Season 2 of the psy-changelings, will be built. I’m filled with mixed feelings throughout, because it’s akin to saying goodbye to familiar and beloved characters (especially Hawke, Sienna and the rest of the Laurens).

I can’t say that I’m not curious about BlackSea or the Falcons and loathe as I am to admit it, I’ve not been emotionally invested in the new changeling groups yet or been sufficiently hooked by the next season’s anticipated stories that Singh promises. Consequently, finishing ‘Shards of Hope’ isn’t exactly the satisfying end I’d hoped it could have been.


Shield of Winter by Nalini Singh

Shield of Winter by Nalini SinghShield of Winter by Nalini Singh
Series: Psy-Changeling, #13
Published by Berkley Hardcover on June 3rd 2014
Pages: 431
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Assassin. Soldier. Arrow. That is who Vasic is, who he will always be. His soul drenched in blood, his conscience heavy with the weight of all he’s done, he exists in the shadows, far from the hope his people can almost touch—if only they do not first drown in the murderous insanity of a lethal contagion. To stop the wave of death, Vasic must complete the simplest and most difficult mission of his life.
For if the Psy race is to survive, the empaths must wake…
Having rebuilt her life after medical “treatment” that violated her mind and sought to stifle her abilities, Ivy should have run from the black-clad Arrow with eyes of winter frost. But Ivy Jane has never done what she should. Now, she'll fight for her people, and for this Arrow who stands as her living shield, yet believes he is beyond redemption. But as the world turns to screaming crimson, even Ivy’s fierce will may not be enough to save Vasic from the cold darkness…

Post-Silence, the Arrows need to find their own feet amidst shifting alliances and betrayals. Vasic’s story comes in the dawn of this new age, and perhaps rightfully so, for a man who has been waiting to die for a long time. It’s a relief to see that he finally finds something more in Ivy Jane, one of the many empaths in Psy-Net whose designation has been ignored and scrubbed out when the empaths are tasked to restore order in a rotten Net collapsing under the heavy weight of mental infection.

(What I really, really liked was the sex-talk between Judd and Vasic, done with such military precision and planning that made me laugh throughout. *I heart Judd for sharing his research file*)

By that same token, I’m starting to think of Lucas as a personality-less panther whose claws come out each time someone comes near his mate and child – understandable but a tiring rhetoric from a panther who introduced us to this wonderful world in Slave to Sensation and can do so much more than be the overly protective entity hovering over his family. Any wonder why Hawke – and how beautifully he handles his responsibilities as alpha – had me sunk in Kiss of Snow?

Apart from that, ‘Shield of Winter’ is so much more than a simple story about 2 people fumbling their way through intimacy – which it undoubtedly is, in a raw, beautifully awkward way that can only happen when neither party has the experience for it. It is also one that chronicles one of the most honest relationships – sans mind games and manipulating – that I’ve had the privilege of reading.

Nalini Singh’s world-building is rock solid at this point and the book reads like a penultimate swan song to the next one where I’m guessing things will finally settle into a denouement that will allow subsequent books in this universe to shift away from the Psy-changelings who have been the focus for the past 14 or so novels.


Tangle of Need by Nalini Singh

Tangle of Need by Nalini SinghTangle of Need by Nalini Singh
Series: Psy-Changeling #11
Published by Berkley on May 29th 2012
Pages: 422
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Adria, wolf changeling and resilient soldier, has made a break with the past—one as unpredictable in love as it was in war. Now comes a new territory, and a devastating new complication: Riaz, a SnowDancer lieutenant already sworn to a desperate woman who belongs to another.
For Riaz, the primal attraction he feels for Adria is a staggering betrayal. For Adria, his dangerous lone-wolf appeal is beyond sexual. It consumes her. It terrifies her. It threatens to undermine everything she has built of her new life. But fighting their wild compulsion toward one another proves a losing battle.
Their coming together is an inferno…and a melding of two wounded souls who promise each other no commitment, no ties, no bonds. Only pleasure. Too late, they realize that they have more to lose than they ever imagined. Drawn into a cataclysmic Psy war that may alter the fate of the world itself, they must make a decision that might just break them both.

I’d honestly say that I liked this book for the sheer number of Hawke and Sienna interactions than anything else (because damn, I just can’t get enough of them), though I also liked the insight that Nalini Singh provides on mating and bonding – and their necessity in facilitating a ‘true’ relationship using the example of poor Adria and Riaz. This had been my worst fears in Kiss of Snow and while I’m so happy that Hawke and Sienna got their HEA, I’m glad this was addressed in this book and answered in a way that did not make anything else other than a mating bond second best.

The Pure-psy /changeling war juggernaut rolls on in this particular book, although it doesn’t look like the animosity between Hawke, Sienna and Ming is coming to a head as yet.